The concert on March 20 has been postponed due to current events and will be rescheduled at a later date.
Native Washington residents of a certain era have memories of former Lewis County resident Richard Peterson, even if the name doesn’t immediately ring a bell. A familiar figure at Seattle sporting events, Richard and his trumpet would serenade fans before and after the games, using his “No Canadian Coins” stickered tip bucket as percussion.
When Seattle became a cultural hub in the ‘90s, Richard’s profile grew to make guest appearances on local artists’ recordings, dropping in on radio shows and opening up for internationally-known bands such as The Cramps and Violent Femmes. One of his songs even found its way on a chart-topping Stone Temple Pilots album, providing him with significant royalty checks for a couple of years.
These days, Richard switched from trumpet to piano, playing gigs at clubs and lobbies around Seattle. A documentary called “Big City Dick” chronicling his life was released in 2004. He’s continued to record material. His seventh album, aptly titled Seven, was released in 2019 on Olympia-based Green Monkey Records.
What’s less known about Richard is that he grew up in Lewis County. Shortly after he was born in 1948, the Peterson family moved from San Diego to what Richard describes as “a big farmhouse built in the 19th century, close to Ethel but considered as Chehalis.”
Although several members of the Peterson family dabbled in music, Richard was the most passionate. When asked about his favorite musical memory in Chehalis, he responds with “Production music on TV.” While watching classic television shows from the ‘50s, young Richard was intrigued by the short background cues and incidental music created by network-contracted orchestras, taking notes of the composers listed in the end credits.
One of Richard’s favorite shows from that time was “Sea Hunt”, starring Lloyd Bridges. In the early ‘90s, he met Lloyd’s son Jeff Bridges, who was filming a movie in Seattle. Boosted by their mutual love of music and entertainment, the two became friends. When Jeff and his band The Abiders played Woodinville’s Chateau Ste. Michelle winery in 2011, Richard was the opening act. “My only winery concert,” he notes. “I want to do some more.”
The presence of brass in the production music was a factor in Richard choosing his instrument. Initially starting on trombone, he switched to trumpet in 1970. At the time, Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass was big, so he followed suit with his own outfit, Dixon City Brass, which he admits “was never a real band.” Later, he discovered another artist that became a huge influence on his performance style, Johnny Mathis. Richard’s seen Johnny Mathis 161 times at concerts throughout North America and celebrity golf tournaments. Additionally, several of Richard’s album artwork and promotional photos pay tribute to Johnny’s classic ‘60s album covers.
The Seattle-based performers and radio personalities that Richard saw in the late ‘60s at the Southwest Washington Fair and other Lewis County events motivated him to head north in October of 1973 to pursue his musical career. Although he’s in his fifth decade as a Seattle artist and resident, Richard still keeps tabs on activity in Lewis and Thurston County, specifically the new buildings and hotels that have been erected in the past ten years. Indeed, architecture plays a big part in Richard’s life. He possesses accurate drafting skills and can point out the year and number of floors of many Washington buildings without hesitation.
Given his encyclopedic knowledge of historical monuments, local radio broadcasters and annual festivals, it’s fitting that Richard stopped by the Lewis County Historical Museum during a recent trip to Chehalis. Visitors and staff members were treated to an impromptu performance of “Rivers and Waterways” on the piano from the Playquato dance hall, written by production music composer Philip Green. Richard’s favorite part of the museum? “The model of downtown Winlock.” As expected, he has fond memories of the Winlock Egg Days parade, which he attended from 1956 through the early ‘70s.
“We looked at photos on the computer and Richard talked about the St. Helens Inn being the tallest building in Chehalis,” says Jason Mattson, Director of the Lewis County Historical Museum. “He has a wish that two more stories would be added to it – he even drew a picture of the building with extra stories.”
“Richard is unique to the Pacific Northwest since he was embraced by the late ‘80s and ‘90s Seattle music scene,” Jason said. “The fact that other Northwest artists and celebrities saw his talents and helped to bring them to light with collaborations and getting his albums recorded, I think that says a lot about the people that have embraced his unique style.”
Although he’s still a committed Seattle resident despite the big city’s ever-changing landscape, Richard would be open to playing the renovated theaters and performance spaces in Lewis County. Given his love for vintage buildings and musical arrangements of yesteryear, it would be a perfect fit.
Richard Peterson returns to Chehalis for his first hometown performance on Friday, March 20 at McFiler’s, sponsored by Chehalis Holiday Inn Express and the Lewis County Historical Museum. His latest CD will be available at the show (no Canadian coins, please.)